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You think you’re angry?

Making Sense of Life

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By Dr. Terry Drew Kaaren

It’s common knowledge that our country has become more divided than any of us living can remember. This article isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about what people are feeling.

When I was working toward one of my doctorates a required reading was A Course in Miracles. I read a line in the book that said something to the effect that we are never really angry about what think we are. That stopped me. That’s a thought that takes some time to chew on.

The very same thing happened during my graduate work. In a class on emotions and feelings I learned that when we can get past the anger we often reach sadness. Remember a time when you were extremely angry. Once you calmed down, did you find yourself reduced to tears, perhaps right in front of the person who ticked you off. God, I hate that when it happens!

Usually we get over it, but at other times we may find that sadness is not the final layer of our emotions. The real emotional experience we’re having is fear.

Fear, when appropriate, is a good thing. It stops us from getting too close to a high cliff or remembering to turn off the iron before we leave the house. At other times, however, fear can be debilitating to such an extent that we become paralyzed. If we are fearful of something that may happen to us if we go outside, we might not leave the house. If we are afraid we’ll be dumped, we might not be willing to date, even if we really want a relationship.

The anger that we see in today’s world, and in particular the United States, overlays many justifiable fears. In less than two years we’ve seen programs to help those in need cut, environmental disasters, and the elimination of civil rights protections. These examples, and many more, were predicted by countless people. But do you know what the response was from the majority?

Anger. That’s fine, except that’s where many of us stayed and continue to live today. It is, if you’ll allow me, “Anger Without Representation.” Sure, we share the posts, we comment on social media about how outraged we are, and we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by real and supposed fears. It’s as if we have developed a group anticipatory fear (a feeling of being afraid about what we think will happen, even if those thoughts have no basis in reality) about most things in our lives on which we’ve counted on or fought hard to achieve.

Instead of shares being a call-to-action they have too often been merely fuel for the fire. Too many postings announce and justify our outrage yet leave little to offer as a next step. And that is what needs to come out of the anger. Not more anger. More action.

In the past five years my community and I have been working in the area of spiritual social action in ways that the religious or clerical communities have been silent in the past. We all need to know how important every email of protest, every last signature on petition, every phone call, and every vote means to see that we return to a greater experience of being “the home of the free.”

We must be aware of what’s going on not only abroad and nationally, but what is happening right here in the Commonwealth and in particular, south central Pennsylvania. We need to ask ourselves if that brunch is really as important as the rally taking place the same day. We can be more willing to be the people we want to be around:  compassionate, empathetic, helpful, and loving. Bottom line:  We need to give a damn.

Fortunately, many people in our community are doing many of these things, or some of these things, or even more than these things. If you are not this is not a scolding. It’s a wakeup call that will affect whatever area of your life that makes you angry. We need you … now. The reward for that is you’ll find yourself less angry and less fearful of the future. Why? Because you’re taking action and that means you have empowered yourself to go from victim to victor.

Terry is an author, speaker, licensed social worker and flight attendant. He is also the director of Spirit, Mind and Body Foundation (spiritmindbodyfoundation.org).